Graham Thorpe: a quiet exit for a quiet man © Getty Images

The announcement was perfectly timed. Shortly after Kevin Pietersen announced his arrival on the Test scene by swinging Shane Warne into the Grand Stand boxes, Graham Thorpe announced his retirement from international cricket.

Pietersen had taken Thorpe's place for this Test, although there were times yesterday, as England's collapse continued apace, when eyes strained towards the pavilion door hoping that the next man in might be GP Thorpe, with his low-slung footballer's gait, and his phlegmatic it's-the-next-ball-that-counts approach.

Thorpe was England's middle-order Polyfilla for so long that we often took him for granted. After becoming the best advert yet for England A tours - he went on five of them - he marked his Test debut in 1993 with his first century, and against Australia too. Now he bows out, with a round 100 Test caps, and 6744 runs at the mid-40s average that has always been thought of as the benchmark for a very good Test batsman.

Thorpe has rarely been centre stage - he was one of those team players who get taken for granted, until they are no longer there to paper over the cracks. Ironically he missed yesterday's parade of England's 100-cap men only because he'd been left out of this match. He's also the only one of those centurions not to captain England.

He was rarely showy, although his pivot-pull, one foot off the ground and pointing back down the pitch, was a shot all his own. He was more of a partnership-builder, a reassuring presence down the other end for a succession of batsmen with more strokes but less sticking-power.

Thorpe and Hussain, in particular, enjoyed their partnerships together, starting with a big one, against Australia again, at Edgbaston in 1997. And it was Thorpe who was in at the end of one of Hussain's finest hours, the twilight victory that ended Pakistan's unbeaten record in Karachi at the end of 2000.

It's the end of an era in another way, too. Thorpe was the last of the bristly boys who sustained England throughout the 1990s - Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart and Nasser Hussain preceded him out of the dressing-room door, as what Hussain (the only one of them to miss a 100th cap, and that only narrowly) called the PlayStation generation bounded in. They all moved into the commentary box, but it's difficult to see Thorpe following suit - he's a reserved man, softly spoken with a hint of a lisp, and has never had much time for the media scrum. There is an autobiography slated for later in the year, though.

Thorpe might have been handy at Lord's yesterday, presenting that broad bat, with the handle that he tinkered with constantly, to the problems posed by Glenn McGrath. The announcement does stop any speculation about a recall later in the series, although he is in decent form at the moment, and if it's 2-2 going to The Oval and Brett Lee has broken a finger or two, then David Graveney might yet be thumbing through the phone book for Thorpey's number.

Steven Lynch is the former editor of Cricinfo